12:00 AM, November 04, 2012 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, November 04, 2012

Padma Bridge Financing

Confusion back with Mashiur

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Staff Correspondent

The World Bank, irked by Mashiur Rahman's claim that he joined office on return from leave, has been told by government officials that the adviser to the prime minister is still on leave.
Mashiur had to go on leave after a prolonged drama at the Bank's insistence that all public officials, including the adviser, against whom corruption allegations have been raised should stay away from office during the probe into the allegations if the Padma bridge loan was to be revived.
But on Thursday, Mashiur told reporters that he joined work at the Prime Minister's Office after a month's leave.
Sending him on leave was one of the WB's key conditions for its revival of $1.2 billion loan.
Following his return, WB's local and Washington offices contacted several key government policymakers on Thursday and Friday to know about Mashiur's current job status. The Bank was told that he was still on leave.
A WB official said they are still confused about the latest development and will closely watch the situation.
Some government officials claim that Mashiur will not take part in any government activities even if he has joined office.
But the WB official said they judge leave as leave, and an individual, who is on leave, would not go to office.
The Washington-based lender cancelled its loan in June this year also because all the public officials, allegedly involved in corruption, were not sent on leave, he told The Daily Star.
The WB agreed to revive the loan following the government's written commitment that it would meet all of the Bank's conditions that include sending on leave all government officials, allegedly involved in corruption.
His return has surprised top government officials and Awami League leaders, who think it could jeopardise the Padma bridge project, one of the key election promises of the ruling party.
A finance ministry official said the WB has never revived any fully cancelled loan in its history. Now, there could be new troubles over the financing of the $2.9 billion project because of an individual, said the official.
Top AL leaders are also embarrassed about his sudden return. They think this would only fuel new debate and bring no good to the government, the country or the party.
The Daily Star talked to a number of ministers and high-profile AL leaders about the Mashiur issue. Most of them expressed resentment at his sudden return.
They said Mashiur's leave has expired. The government neither engaged him in a new job nor dismissed him from his position.
A source at the finance ministry said the issue of Mashiur's leave extension was discussed at a meeting between Finance Minister AMA Muhith and his ministry's high officials.
The minister told them that the prime minister will decide on it after she returns on November 7 from her visit to Vietnam and Laos, said the source.
The Daily Star tried to contact Finance Minister and Prime Minister's Public Administration Adviser HT Imam over the last two days, but they could not be reached.
Mashiur told bdnews24.com yesterday that he will go by whatever the prime minister decides for him.
In June, the World Bank cancelled its $1.2 billion loan for the project citing "corruption conspiracy". It said the government must meet three conditions, including sending Mashiur on leave, for the revival of the loan agreement.
The global lender decided to revive its loan on September 21 after the Bangladesh government agreed to its terms and conditions.
It then appointed a three-member external panel early last month to assess the conduct of the ACC investigation. The panel recently visited Dhaka.

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